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Weekends With Alex Witt

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Iran 8, New Hampshire 6, Libya 5, Obama 5, Susan Rice 5, Alex Witt 5, Paul Ryan 5, Savannah 4, U.s. 4, Neosporin Eczema Essentials 4, Benjamin Netanyahu 4, New York City 4, Ruth Bader Ginsburg 4, Romney 4, Ohio 4, Florida 4, Columbus 3, Alex 3, The Home Depot 3, Virginia 3,
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  MSNBC    Weekends With Alex Witt    News  News/Business.  
   Live news coverage. New.  

    September 29, 2012
    7:00 - 8:00am EDT  

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not a very nice nickname. it should probably be congressman gangster. we will see. but as i said, the david rivera race now leans democratic. weekends with alex witt starts now. what happened in libya? new word from the top u.s. spy office on the killing of the american ambassador there. was it another september 11th al qaeda attack? 38 days and counting. polls show a turn toward the president. how might those numbers affect what happens at the voting booth in november? we'll examine that. not seeing red anymore? one report this morning suggests that an attack on iran by israel may not be as close as once thought. in office politics, the "today" show's savannah guthrie, we hear one question, it's a key one, of what she asked the the president in her interview with him this week. good morning, everyone. welcome to "weekends with alex
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witt." today reaction to a rare reversal from u.s. intelligence officials on what happened in libya. officials now admit they got it wrong. the director of national intelligence office says, quote, we revised our initial assessment to reflect new information. and the intelligence community now believes it was a deliberate and organized attack which left the u.s. ambassador and three others dead. now members of congress from both parties are demanding answers. on the ground in benghazi investigators can't even get to the scene. nbc's mike viqueira is joining us from the white house with more. good saturday morning to you. >> good morning. >> how big is this reversal? >> it's a very big deal. from the beginning, alex, ever since those attacks on september 11th in benghazi, libya, that left four americans dead, 9 questions not only have been how could this have happened but did the administration shy away, intentionally mislead the american public about the involvement of terrorists, and in particular elements tied to al qaeda. now there are many republicans who say the administration,
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including the president, specifically said that this was tied to that anti-islam video that played on youtube that sparked demonstrations, make no mistake, worldwide across the region in muslim countries from the middle east all the way to indonesia. and, in fact, the administration spokesman, the president's spokesman jay carney had said that explicitly in the immediate days afterwards. then the explanations began to shift a little bit. susan rice the u.n. ambassador said it started as a demonstration about that video, and then involved other elements, who joined spontaneously. it's been shifting ever since. the president initially called it an act of terror. he has not done so since then but his spokesman has said since then that it is obviously self-evidently an act of terror, and now this statement from the spokesman for the director of national intelligence, who says in part, we do assess that some of those involved were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to, al qaeda. >> can i ask you, susan rice, she's under fire from peter king. of course he's a republican
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congressman. he's been calling for her resignation, saying she hasn't been forthcoming with the truth. so what does the white house say about that? >> they did put out a spokesman in defense of ambassador -- statement in defense of ambassador susan rice yesterday. it stems from a couple of sundays ago. she was on some of the sunday shows, including "meet the press" where she gave that explanation that this protest in benghazi started off as a protest against an american installation there, about that anti-islam video that denigrated the prophet mohammed and then spontaneo spontaneously turned into something more and may have included elements of more organized elements. and that's something that republicans say that susan rice intentionally lied about, the spokesman saying last night from the white house, the administration has -- thinks that susan rice has done an extraordinary job. it was not her personal opinion that she was putting forth on those sunday shows. >> all right. mike viqueira. thank you very much for that. important story this morning. to front page politics new this morning, mitt romney says he's looking forward to the
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upcoming presidential debates, first one's on wednesday. >> i think it will be a good chance for the president and for me to have a conversation with the american people about our respective views. and i think that will give people a chance to understand where we actually stand. >> paul ryan is in new hampshire today. the republican vice presidential nominee will hold a rally in the city of derry in just a few hours. meanwhile, vice president biden is in the battleground state of florida. he's going to attend a campaign event in fort myers this morning. on friday he met with seniors at a retirement village in boca raton. >> governor romney's plan goes into effect it can mean that everyone, every one of you, would be paying more on -- taxes on your social security. >> michelle obama is encouraging young voters to get to the polls. like right now. the first lady spoke to college students in iowa friday, urging them to go into nearby early voting booths to cast their ballots. >> you got a whole month to make
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it happen. a whole month to vote! as i tell my children, don't procrastinate. no procrastination. make it happen. do it today. >> joining me now, political reporter for "the washington post" felicia somnez and white house correspondent for the hill, amy barnes. good morning. >> good morning. >> so, amy, i'm going to start with you. on libya, earlier this week the president said on "the view" that he thought it was an act of terrorism. why is this being perceived as such a big reversal now? >> well, i think you're seeing them respond to susan rice, as we mentioned before, and other people in the administration who initially blamed the protests and the violence on the video. now they're sort of walking it back that this is a dramatic shift. what remains to be seen is how the administration, and how team obama the campaign will handle this. so far they feel very confident in their foreign policy and they're saying national security is one of their biggest strengths. >> okay. felicia, here's john kerry. he signed a letter with other
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senate intelligence committee members for more info on the libya matter. take a listen to this. >> the republicans are working overtime to try to exploit a very normal, run of the course, administrative letter that we agreed to on a bipartisan basis in our committee, simply to get some additional questions put in front of the state department. >> he goes on to say it's all political now. i mean, is this going to become a campaign issue? >> absolutely. you're already seeing it become a big issue on the campaign. particularly on the republican side. of course. the problem, though, is that the house and the senate both adjourned for the rest of this year, up until after the election, earlier this month, and so if this is going to be an issue that republicans wield against the obama ticket it's going to be one that they're going to have to do on the campaign trail. now, that spelled a problem for mitt romney because it's just one of the latest examples of
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how his campaign has turned its focus away from the economy, the number one issue they had said time and again this year would be on voters' minds and so it's a bit of a gamble for them. they're increasing their criticism on this issue on the one hand. they think that that gives them an opening among voters, perhaps independents who are a little bit worried about this issue. but it does -- it comes at the expense of them being able to hammer the president on the economy. >> okay. so felicia, with what, 38 days to go until the election. already, gee, has time flown. mitt romney behind in all nine battleground states according to the latest nbc news/"wall street journal"/marist polls. do you get any sense of strategy from the mitt romney camp that might break through or do you think they're waiting for wednesday night and the debates to begin? >> the problem is they promised several times to reset the campaign and then reset the reset. but we've seen in the past three weeks since the national conventions have ended there really hasn't been that much of a shift in strategy when it comes to the time that the republican ticket has spent in the top three battleground
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states of ohio, florida, and virginia. the obama ticket is actually outperforming them in those states. they've held about 29 events in that period compared to about 24 for the republicans. so, while there's a lot of calls for romney and paul ryan to be hitting the trail a little bit more, and to be doing a little bit less fund-raising, you're seeing exactly the opposite happening on the ground. so mitt romney spent yesterday in pennsylvania. that was not exactly a battleground state. they're not even running ads there right now. so it's a little bit of a head scratcher when you take a look at where they're spending their time. how they expect to pull this thing out. >> you know what's interesting about this, too, aimee is the president's came totally lowering expectations on the debate front. is there a theme, a general theme being struck by the president's team on all this? and how much debate prep is the president actually doing, given it's been a pretty busy cycle for him in terms of running things from 1600 pennsylvania avenue? >> well, yeah, they're saying he hasn't really had time to prepare for this. he's focused on his day job, which, of course, we know is
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not. he's campaigning. and the other side is saying the same thing, they're both kind of giving each other very glowing remarks about how the other side is a great orator, the other side has had many times to practice in the primary. but the president has been practicing. he's been going to the dnc every friday. he'll get three more days this week when he goes to nevada and colorado to have a little cram session, if you will. >> i want to play the latest obama camp ad on mr. romney's 47% remark. let's play it. here it is. >> there are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them, who believe that they're entitled to health care, and to food, to housing, to you name it. and they will vote for this president no matter what. and so my job is not to worry about those people. i'll never convince them. >> that is one tough ad. you're putting faces to those
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words. amie has the romney camp come up with any effective counter to it or is this going to be a theme for the next 38 days? >> i think it will be a theme for the next 38 days. they are trying to respond to it. you saw this week, he touted his health care law in massachusetts, which was a little awkward for him. but he's kind of showing that he does have an empathetic side. but meanwhile the obama campaign is also coming back. they're releasing new web ad this morning. they're slamming him for bain again for his private equity experience. so i think you're going to see these themes recurring again and again. >> okay. good to see you both as always. thank you. we're going to go now to the weekend weather forecast and get a live look at new york city. and there we have nbc meteorologist -- that's part of new york city. but doesn't look like the usual beautiful view. that's really pretty. look at that. central park kind of nice. >> very nice. >> that's the usual spot right there. we see times square, which is pretty empty this time of day. good morning to you.
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>> good morning to you, too. nice to see a little greenery first thing on a saturday morning. in new york city. even with the fog, that mist, that drizzle that mist in the air. we're going to see some improvements as we go through the day in new york city. might even squeeze out a little bit of sunshine which would be nice. other areas across the northeast seeing a little bit of light rain. the heavy rain is back into texas. first things first, areas up near boston we are going to start to see some improvements as that rain moves eastward. the heaviest of the rain over the water and we will see a few spotty showers. scattered showers across the northeast today. heavy rain, though, is expected across portions of southern texas. midland, texas, yesterday picked up four inches of rain. a daily record in that area. and we are also looking at the chance of another perhaps three, up to four inches. although today it should be isolated to southern texas, san antonio, houston, about two inches of rainfall. and we will see the warmest temperatures where t rain is going to be and eventually as we go through the day today, some of those showers will start to shift eastward.
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and then tomorrow as we go into sunday we will actually see most of that rain down across the southeast. but still a few spotty showers across the northeast. >> okay, well thanks for the heads up on all that dylan. appreciate it. the impact this election could have on the supreme court. which of the justices might retire in the next four years and how might that affect the court's makeup? depending on who wins the presiden presidency. a chilling effect. could polls showing president obama with big leads in swing states cause some voters to stay away election day? from either party? bob, these projections... they're... optimistic. productivity up, costs down, time to market reduced... those are good things. upstairs, they will see fantasy. not fantasy... logistics. ups came in, analyzed our supply chain, inventory systems...
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ups? ups. not fantasy? who would have thought? i did. we did, bob. we did. got it.
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today president obama and israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu talked about it in a phone call friday. the two leaders underscored that they are in full agreement of the shared goal of preventing iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. that comes on the heels of netanyahu's speech to the u.n. where he made use of a rather tar toon-like bomb to illustrate where he draws a red line on iran's nuclear program. joining me now joel reuben former state department officer, now director of policy and government affairs. good morning. >> good morning, alex. >> so the jerusalem post reports today that a white house aide says the temperature is lower than it had been for military action by israel. since netanyahu's speech what might have changed? >> yes, it is the sense we got. and it clearly, benjamin netanyahu has endorsed the president's policy in saying that there is time and space for diplomacy.
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he laid out the time line when iran my get enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon at some point later next year. that means that essentially over the next half year, the minimum, he has said there should be a diplomatic effort that is going to stop iran from getting a nuclear weapon. >> so that time line that the prime minister laid out, is that a real time line from iran developing a bomb? i mean, are we certain on that? do we know exactly what's going on in terms of time line? >> well, the intelligence community, and the international atomic energy agency, have very good insight into the iranian nuclear program. they have inspectors on the ground. there's intelligence assets, above in the sky from satellite imagery, as well as on the ground assets. and there's a clear understanding that iran is enriching uranium up to nearly 20%. but it has quantity that is much less than what is needed to eventu eventually develop one nuclear weapon. that gives us confidence that we can understand if and when iran
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were to go for a nuclear weapon, it currently has not decided to make one. >> so u.s. and israeli intelligence, they're all on the same page in terms of a time line? there's no difference of opinion? >> they really are. the israeli intelligence leadership, former and current, all say that iran has not decided to make a nuclear weapon. their intelligence, the american intelligence, feeds into the international atomic energy agency assessments that are produced every four months or so. and this is the consensus view of the international community that watches these issues. >> okay. secretary clinton met one-on-one with mr. netanyahu for more than an hour on thursday. you have that. you have the phone call that the president shared with him yesterday. has the president and benjamin netanyahu patched over any perceived differences? >> it's a very interesting moment right now, where there's a perception that is being pushed in the political environment of differences between netanyahu and the obama administration. but when it comes to the facts,
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this administration has a very close relationship with the netanyahu government, the defense minister who barack has multiple times spoken about, how the support for israel's security is at the highest level it's ever been. so there's superficial arguments about it, but really no, no real split at all. >> we know that benjamin netanyahu has known mitt romney for a long time. the fact is he spoke with him yesterday as well regarding iran. and here's what mr. romney said regarding that call. >> i do not believe that in the final analysis we will have to use military action. i certainly hope we don't have to. i can't -- i can't take that option off the table. >> seems like a little softer stance there from mitt romney coming out now, too. no talk of red lines. so what's going on overall? >> well, clearly the president's policy is the one that everyone is coalescing around. even mitt romney finds it hard to disagree with a notion that we should have a diplomatic solution.
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some of his advisers like john bolton, however, argued for bombing yesterday. but that flies in the face of a broad swath of bipartisan security experts who argue that bombing iran would facility their acquisition of a nuclear weapon. >> okay, joel rubin. many thanks for coming on. >> thank you. >> office politics. savannah guthrie tells me about her latest interview with president obama and the questions she wish she had asked him. why should our wallets tell us what our favorite color is? every room deserves to look great. and every footstep should tell us we made the right decision.
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now to our three big money headlines. how do you feel? no place like home. and no soup for you. do you know what that's from? seinfeld. joining me now retail and economy analyst. did you watch seinfeld? remember the soup nazi? >> i know the soup nazi. i was not a seinfeld watcher. i know, i know. >> it was his famous line. first up, let's get to consumer sentiment. it has risen to the highest level in four months. what's behind all of this? >> three main reasons what's behind this huge rise that really has to do with the rising
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property values, stock prices going up, and the stabilization of gas prices. remember, back in during labor day gas prices were in flux, now they're starting to stabilize. consumers are starting to realize maybe the economy is starting to straighten out a little bit more. consumer sentiment, the university of michigan sentiment index came in at 78.3, that was up from 74.3, from last month. but there still is this fragile recovery to the economy. gdp numbers, it's growing at a slow rate of 1.3%. and the main reason why, alex, is because of the drought from last summer. >> right. we knew that was going to stick around. we were in real trouble with that. what about the mix of news regarding new home construction and sales? >> some of these sales numbers were actually lower than they expected. they came in about 0.3% lower. so they were expecting new single family home sales to come in at 380,000. they came in at 373,000. >> off a little. >> off a little. but prices are increasing.
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the median price for a house is $256,000. so price is actually increasing there. >> yeah. but the housing market improved slightly, home improvement sales, that i hear is going through the roof. right? people are spending money now. >> the prices are increasing. people want to improve their homes. so those -- those sales a through the roof. online especially for home retailers. that's even -- that is better than back-to-school sales for september. and some of these mom and pop stores, as well as big box stores are really benefiting. home depot had earnings last month of $1.5 billion. they reported those -- >> that is extraordinary. what about this is kind of a bummer campbell's soup company, the american classic, is downsizing. >> that is something i know very much about. because i ate that all when i was young. right now, people aren't eating soup. and analysts that i was speaking to on facebook last night were saying that it has a lot to do with the weather. but really, soup consumption has dropped for canned soup 13% in the last decade.
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now, the campbell's soup plant in sacramento is closing. it's the oldest plant. it was opened in 1947. they're getting rid of 700 jobs. and another plant in new jersey is getting rid of 27 jobs. that was actually a spice plant that they had. >> all right. thank you. kind of bummer news. >> bummer. >> hitha we'll see you again. thank you. consumer confidence is up. do you feel better about the economy? you can talk to me on twitter, my handle is @alex witt. i'm going to read your tweets throughout the day. in this morning's one-minute playback. oops my bad. our friends at late night with jimmy fallon have a little segment called late night hash tags. jimmy was inspired by the controversy over the nfl replacement refs so he started a hash tag called oops my bad. viewers responded with some of their most embarrassing moments. >> this one is from a 4 d zack 13. she said i yelled at a waitress for not giving me four tortillas, she then pointed to the menu and said flour
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tortillas. well, then, sorry, i think you spelled it wrong. this last one, doll 4 rob she says at my son's birthday party kids were hitting the pinata but nothing was coming out. i didn't know it came empty. eight crying kids. there you have it. i didn't think it was anything. i had pain in my abdomen... it just wouldn't go away. i was spotting, but i had already gone through menopause. these symptoms may be nothing... but they could be early warning signs of a gynecologic cancer, such as cervical, ovarian, or uterine cancer. feeling bloated for no reason. that's what i remember. seeing my doctor probably saved my life. warning signs are not the same for everyone. if you think something's wrong... see your doctor. ask about gynecologic cancer. and get the inside knowledge.
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[ laughing ] [ laughing ] [ laughing ]
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[ laughing ] ♪ welcome back to "weekends with alex witt" today republican vp nominee paul ryan is on the trail in two swing states. he'll begin this morning in derry, new hampshire. then he travels to ohio to deliver a speech in columbus. mr. ryan is sharpening his attacks against the president and romney campaign. they face the president's growing lead in the polls in both states. nbc's ron mott is live on the phone from boston with us. ron, what's the latest there? >> hey, alex, good morning to you. we're in boston, just getting ready to board the buses and head up to derry, new hampshire, for that first rally that you mentioned. paul ryan is going to be speaking in new hampshire, and then we are off to ohio.
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a little bit later for a banquet in columbus later this afternoon. he's sharpening his attack against the president. the president seems to develop bigger and bigger leads in those big battlegrounds, ohio, virginia, florida, as the attacks from the romney campaign are getting just a little bit sharper and what paul ryan is going out and doing now, the past week or so, he's brought out the power point. the numbers guy, a budget guy, he's showing voters who come to these rallies exactly, and in raw numbers, the deficit problem the country has and he said that mitt romney is the better candidate to try to reverse the trend that the united nations government has been on in the past four years. so we'll have to see if he sharpens that attack even more today. but clearly they know they've got some challenges ahead, in new hampshire, of course the battleground state just four electoral votes there. in this tight race four votes could mean the difference between who is president and who is not. they want to fight hard. mitt romney's adopted home state there, if you will. >> right, so he'll be doing that
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for sure in new hampshire and then in ohio today. okay, thank you very much, ron mott appreciate that. let's get more on the president's surge in the polls. he is increasing his lead in a number of key swing states. he's leading in all nine nbc/"wall street journal"/marist polls taken over the last three weeks. let's talk about what's happening from the gop perspective. because some there are complaining about the polling. they say the pollsters are oversampling democrats. any legitimacy to any of these complaints? >> well, you know, alex one of the things that we often find is that the side that's complaining about polling or the media usually the side that's down. so, that's i think more of what's happening here, rather than the polls being skewed in some way. i mean, i think our pollsters, you know, we use a republican polling firm. we use with a democratic polling firm. they're, you know, have great reputations, and they try their best to match these numbers as best they can to census and
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registration numbers. and really try as hard as they can to get it as right as possible. i think it's important for people to notice in these things margins of error, and trends. those are the most important things. people want to talk about specific numbers. i think that's a mistake. i think you need to notice the trend line of where things are going, and clearly, when you look at the preponderance of polling across battle ground states and nationally the president has opened up a lead on mitt romney. >> uniformly there's not a poll out there it seems a legitimate one that doesn't have that sort of assessment. the fact is the gop would not be complaining probably were they to be on the you know top of the polls, right? >> well that's true. i think it's important to watch poll to poll what the movements are. because those, even if there is some oversampling here or there, if you look at -- if you look at in almost every poll, back to maybe may or june, there has been a shift, and those methodologies within each of those polls don't change.
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>> here's a problem, though. when you report poll numbers and you see a trend, as we're seeing now, can that having a chilling effect on the voters of the party that's -- that's behind, does it make them, you know, rather depressed enthusiasm? do they not then want to get out of the polls thinking, oh, you know, it's a done deal? >> i think it goes -- it cuts both ways. i've heard from liberals who said i hope obama hasn't peaked too early. i really hope people still go and vote. i think it can cut both ways on that. i think it can also rally conservatives to say there's problems here, republicans need us. i think that there will be some voters, maybe, who might fall out. there might be some people who get more enthused. and i think, though, that there are -- i'm not sure what the, you know, what the science behind that might be. but i think that it can cut both ways. >> how about the money aspect of this from the super pacs? because might they, particularly in swing states, if you see mitt romney behind, might the super pacs say, okay we're not going to put our money behind
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the presidential race, instead we'll go to the house and senate races in those states? >> i think you can see that. i think we may have seen some of that from crossroads gps who really astoundingly when i look back at the numbers that we get from the ad tracking firm that we partner with, they were completely dark in august. i was just shocking, really. but american crossroads has poured in more than $16 million now for the fall. so, they're still playing heavily. and there are these other outside groups that have come in. things like americans for job security. secure america now. who are spending significant amounts of money and kind of making up for some of those, which they're just so many super pacs, especially on the conservative side that they're still outspending the president and his allies when it comes to that. so i don't think mitt romney's losing any of that but certainly mitt romney is very cognizant of needing to still do fund-raising and getting those folks to donate so that they can have enough money to compete. >> so that's the super pac element. but in terms of camp to camp,
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how much is the president's camp outspending mitt romney in the swing states for advertising? >> yeah, well you can see on your screen right there, that the president's team is doubling up mitt romney in these key battleground states, when you're talking just campaign to campaign, florida, ohio, virginia. doubling up spending. and i think that that becomes very difcult if you're the romney campaign, when you're not controlling your message, you're not saying, i'm mitt romney, i approve this message, you're relying on other groups to kind of make up the difference. >> okay. domenico, as always, many thanks. >> no problem, thank you. she had the nerve to ask president obama if he ever flunked a test in school. but what's the question "today" show co-host savannah guthrie wishes she could have asked after his answer? that's part of today's office politics. >> this is an interview that was 100% about education policy. so i really had to do my homework. if you are going to try to ask questions of somebody who has
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been dealing with, and administering education policy for basically the last four years, i tried to do a little bit of homework. so that was the hardest part, probably. the second hardest part is more logistical. when you interview the president, or a presidential candidate, they usually give you a very short amount of time. in this case, i think we had 15 minutes. and you'd be surprised, you may not, but most people would be surprised how quickly that goes. i mean, that's really just four or five questions, depending on how lengthy the answers are. now, i did go a little over the time limit. i ended up going 20 to 22 minutes. >> so how does he end it? does somebody come in and say we're done? >> it's a funny little behind-the-scenes thing. sometimes, i think it's just known that you'll go a little bit past the time limit. the white house understands that. we understand that. you can do it within reason. so when i got the wrap it up cue, i thought, i'll ask one or
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two more. but then they get the -- >> we're done? >> right. and it's over. you have to do it. i actually that for interviews on the "today" show or any interviews you do on television you don't have unlimited time. there's a lot to cover. you can't control how long the subject is going to speak. so it's difficult. >> it's part of why i love this office politics series. because we're not wedded to just, you know, 2 1/2 minutes or something. >> i was just thinking that i'm being a bad interview subject. i gave a very long answer and you're probably thinking -- wrap it up, savannah. >> wow. >> sorry. >> uh-huh. but you did ask the president what kind of student he was. >> i did. at the end. i always think it's, after you do the policy and you talk about no child left behind and race to the top and the fight in chicago, it's always fun to ask, some kind of -- >> have you ever failed a test? >> oh, yes. >> really? >> absolutely. you know, i -- i -- i would say i was a mediocre student. >> now, if i'd had more time i would have followed up, what test? when?
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and are we talking 30%? or you didn't show up? a zero? >> or a 64. just barely under the line. >> i always think it's fun, any time you can get any of these presidential candidates or politicians to tell you something that's just kind of interesting, it's fun to do that at the end. >> oh, absolutely. you've been working in tv in washington, d.c. and then you decide to get a law degree. what was that about? what was the inspiration? >> well, i actually started in local news and i started, well to make a long story short story, i'll give you the short story. i started in columbia, missouri and then in tucson, arizona. i was actually working in local news in tucson when i decided to go to law school. and i moved to washington. and i went to law school, and while i was in law school, i started working part-time at the nbc affiliate there. but after law school i took the bar, and i went and practiced for a short time. and i started, i guess just wondering if i could somehow combine the two. i guess i wasn't done with tv. i still had these hopes to
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combine journalism, and now this new education i had in the law. and so i decided to start sending tapes around trying to get a job and i ended up getting a job at court tv. >> can we back up? you said that you took the bar. shouldn't you be a little more obvious about the way you blistered through the bar? you owned the bar. >> no. >> come on! >> that is just -- actually that's quite embarrassing because the bar exam is a pass/fail test. you don't try to get an "a" on the bar exam. you just try to pass. and if you do more than that you're just stupid. you have just wasted a lot of time. that's how i feel about it. >> but you were the top scorer on the bar. >> well -- >> say thanks for bringing that up, alex. appreciate letting everyone know. >> like i said, that just means i'm a complete nerd. who overstudied and could have had more fun that summer. >> our conversation continues today at noon eastern with savannah's thoughts about having covered sarah palin on the 2008 campaign trail. and she reveals what she likes
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covering more than politics. the scales of justice could be tipped for generations with you vote for president this year. why could this election be so much more crucial than some of the others here on "weekends with alex witt." ♪ why not use all your vacation days this year? get points you can easily redeem for your vacations, with chase sapphire preferred.
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...so they can inspire our students. let's solve this. get two times the points on dining in restaurants with chase sapphire preferred. the supreme court reconvenes monday with critical civil rights cases on the agenda. but it's november 6th, presidential election day, that could be the biggest day for the future of the court. the average age of the supreme court justices is 66. four justices are in their mid to late 70s. the ideologically divided bench could swing either way depending on who sits in the oval office when the next justice retires. joining me is patricia ann millate head of the firm's supreme court practice. good morning. >> good morning.
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>> i know you've argued 31 cases before the supreme court. has that experience given you any insight into who might be the next justice to retire? >> well, i think it's very likely that the next president's going to have at least one, and maybe even two appointments on the court. obviously just statistically, if you look at age, justice ginsburg, ruth bader ginsburg is the most likely one if you just look at age. the longest serving ones, justices scalia and kennedy on the court.those type of factors weigh in. >> i'm going to have my director jason throw up a graphic that will show ruth bader ginsburg, 79 years old. justice scalia, 76. anthony kennedy, as well. at relatively spry 74 there's stephen breyer. how would their retirements shift the court's ideology? >> well, it depends a lot on who is replacing those individuals. if justice ruth bader ginsburg, who is one of the more liberal justices on the court is replaced by a democrat, less
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change. but it will be monumental change if justice ginsburg is replaced by a republican or if a democrat, president obama were to replace justice scalia or justice kennedy. those would be monumental changes in what is already a very closely divided court on at least a lot of hot button issues. >> yeah. the most recently retired justices were john paul stevens went out at 90. david souter 69, sandra day o'connor 75. is there a tradition of when justices usually retire, be it age, or time served? >> well, they're like most human beings. a lot of factors weigh in. there is -- there was a tradition where justices would tend to retire during the term of a president that was at the same party that appointed them. but we know neither justices souter nor stevens did that. they were both republican employees and went out during president obama's term. life circumstances can drive
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retirement decisions. so it's really not scientifically predictable or politically predictable. >> do you see any most likely candidates if another seat opens up under president obama? >> you know, i think if president obama, first of all, justice ruth bader ginsburg i think the pressure to replace her with another woman appointee would be enormous. we've made progress in getting a third of the court female and i don't think president obama or any president would want to go backwards on that. so some potential people for justice ginsburg, if you're looking at the likely women, there is kathy rutler the current white house counsel a very accomplished lawyer. caitlin hal igen whom president obama has nominated for the d.c. circuit would be another potential appointee. pamela harris the attorney general of california, very savvy, accomplished, politically savvy and accomplished lawyer. those are sort of the three i would see for replace -- if you're looking for female replacements. >> how about mitt romney? has he given any indication on
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the type of justice that he would nominate? >> well, like other republicans before him, he says i want someone who looks -- who would vote like the chief justice roberts, or justices thomas or scalia. i don't know if he's still saying chief justice roberts after the health care decision, but that's sort of the trilogy that they recite. i think paul clement who is a very high profile supreme court lawyer, former solicitor general, is one likely choice. brett cavanaugh, on the d.c. circuit are other likely nominees if he's looking for a woman maybe diane sykes who is a court of appeal judges. >> before we let you go with the court reconvening on monday, they could have several major civil rights issues to decide upon. you have affirmative action in the college admissions process, the voting rights act, the defense of marriage act. any indication on how they're going to rule? >> out of the frying pan into the fire from last term, right? and in these issues. the -- now the doma case and the voting rights act the court has not yet decided to take those
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cases. so in theory they may not be there. i think voting rights is virtually guaranteed to be there by the end of october. doma is a little more complicated. the statute was declared unconstitutional. normally that's a ticket right into supreme court review, but the case where that was declared unconstitutional, justice kagan is recused from. so they would have to decide it with an eight-member court. affirmative action is going to be argued october 10th. it's hard to be optimistic. the court has changed a lot since the last affirmative action case. justice o'connor, who wrote the opinion there was a swing vote, is gone. justice kagan is recused from that case, as well. so it's going to be very, very hard. and justice kennedy normally a swing vote descended strongly from the last time affirmative action was upheld. it is hard to figure out how texas is going to get majority votes in that case. but they're fighting hard and i'm sure are as optimistic as can be. >> great speaking with you. thank you so much for your insights. >> thank you.
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coming up next, president obama's big lead in ohio. what's making the difference there in the buckeye state? you're watching "weekends with alex witt." we break out new behr ultra with stain-blocker from the home depot... ...the best selling paint and primer in one that now eliminates stains. so it paints over stained surfaces, scuffed surfaces, just about any surface. what do you say we go where no paint has gone before, and end up some place beautiful. more saving. more doing. that's the power of the home depot. behr ultra. now with advanced stain blocking, only at the home depot, and only $31.98 a gallon. so it can feel like you're using nothing at all. but neosporin® eczema essentials™ is different. its multi-action formula restores visibly healthier skin in 3 days. neosporin® eczema essentials™.
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oh, hey alex. just picking up some, brochures, posters copies of my acceptance speech. great! it's always good to have a backup plan, in case i get hit by a meteor. wow, your hair looks great. didn't realize they did photoshop here. hey, good call on those mugs. can't let 'em see what you're drinking. you know, i'm glad we're both running a nice, clean race. no need to get nasty. here's your "honk if you had an affair with taylor" yard sign. looks good. [ male announcer ] fedex office. now save 50% on banners.
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the latest presidential poles out of ohio show president obama with a strong lead over mitt romney. it has been a hotly contested battle in the buckeye state. mitt romney took a three-day bus tour through ohio this week while president obama held two campaign events on wednesday. joining me is joe barden. political reporter for the columbus dispatch. he interviewed mitt romney this week. joe, with a welcome to you. as we look at the poll numbers, president obama now has a ten point lead at least according to one poll after being neck in neck with mitt romney for quite a while. what's changed? >> right. well, thanks for having me, alex. the first thing that's changed, at least in terms of the ten point poll you're talking about, is the 47%. as we all know, two weeks ago it was revealed, some comments that mitt romney said at a private fund-raiser about 47% of
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americans and the quinnipiac new york sometimes cps nebs news pos revealed after that. that's the 10% margin. as you've mentioned all morning, there is a trend in all polls that shows the president pulling away from romney, and that's for two reasons. one is, people are just in general, i think in ohio, feel a little bit better about the economy. and then you may ask why. well, inn, you can look at consumer confidence. you could also even go right back to the democratic national convention with former president bill clinton, the way he explained the economy and president obama's case for how he's handling the economy really seems to have had an impact. so i think those are some factors that are really playing into this lead. >> also starting out, ohio does have a lower unemployment rate than the national average. you have to factor that in as well. we know both candidates were campaigning there pretty hard in
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the buckeye state. let's take a listen to some of what happened. here it is. >> i have spent a lot of time in ohio, and i don't -- i don't meet a lot of victims. i see a lot of hard working ohioans. >> i believe in america and i believe in you. i believe you're going to help me win ohio, i'll tell you that. all right. >> so the president's showing up there a lot, but he also has the better ground game in ohio, right? >> right. well, i mean, he's been in ohio for five years and, you know, i mean, he had a very strong ground game here in '08 and it never really went away. so, i mean, this is something that his team's been working on for a long time. >> okay. both campaigns have said that they expect 30% of ohio voters to cast their ballots early. how does that impact the way that the candidates have been campaigning? >> well, first lady michelle obama will be here when early
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voting begins on tuesday so you have that little component, but overall, i mean, as you sort of alluded to, both candidates have already been here a ton. they've been here, you know, i don't know, 50 times. we have a neat web page on our website dispatch.com that tracks this. but, you know, i guess we'll see once early voting begins if they stop coming, then i guess that shows -- that would show just how much importance they had put on getting here before the early vote comes out. >> you know, joe, i mentioned that one of your colleagues interviewed mitt romney. can you give me a sense of his confidence level for ohio as expressed in that interview? >> well, i mean, yeah. as you might expect, i mean, he says he's going to win ohio. i mean, you know, polls be darned, what do you say at this point? i mean, you know, you have to exude that kind of confidence. you have to believe in yourself. you know, maybe your internal polling shows a closer race than what we're seeing.
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even if it doesn't, you have to be out there right now, you know, reassuring your base that you feel like you're going to bring it home because we all know no republican has ever won the white house without winning ohio. >> you make very good points there joe vardon. thanks for joining me. >> thanks for having me. that's a wrap of this hour with "weekends with alex witt." we'll be up at noon eastern time. straight ahead, "up with chris hayes." the power of a v8 with the highway fuel economy of a v6. incredible! right? an amazing test drive. i agree. [ male announcer ] it's chevy truck month. now during chevy truck month, get 0% apr financing for 60 months or trade up to get the 2012 chevy silverado all-star edition with a total value of $8,000. hurry in before they're all gone! to start her own interior design business. she's got a growing list of clients she keeps in touch with using e-mail marketing from constantcontact.com.
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